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E. Özgür Özakın
Prepared in partial fulfillment for the requirements of the course titled “IAED 561: History of Theory and Criticism”, conducted by Gülsüm Baydar.
December 25, 2002
"the body in transgression and dissolution". the evolution of iconic imagery in SF can be traced from various perspectives. giving us clues about our anxieties and desires with reference to how they are transformed through time. "the eternal body". a general characteristic of contemporary SF is that the once threatening. there is also a deep-seated resistance to incorporate these “other” bodies. "the body without organs". “other” bodies have become less other (Sobchack. 136). mobile/immobile robots or cyborgs are mirrors for the presentday human image. Creatures depicted in SF such as monsters. suggesting that they are “more human than human”. While carrying contemporary social. ideological. The “other” images of popular culture construct implicit 1 . and scientific discussions to a brand new time and context. It is no longer assumed that human beings are superior to humanoid machines or aliens. Therefore.Science fiction (SF) as an adequate form of fiction conveying our unspoken anxieties. aliens. desires and fantasies serves as a tool that helps us to know ourselves or teaches us something about the way we live. This is realized through the employment of "postmodern" and "posthuman" body concepts such as "overcoming the body via extensions". The latter have become our simulacra. they have to be analyzed with reference to values of their own time. just as the settings are mirrors for human habitat. Nevertheless. situations and actions have emblematic powers. when Cartesian dualities and boundaries are blurred. These mirrors are not merely reflecting ones. The old SF exposition of human and non-human is transformed at our time. monstrous. works of SF hypothetically invent their own nature and bodies to match presumable outcomes of these discussions. "the body without gender". Considering technology-related body imagery. mutants. embodied as literally alienated images of our alienated selves. SF characters. but also transforming ones: melting pots re-shaping identities and subjectivities. and "the new flesh". therefore.
though they do belong to one and the same scale only to occupy distinct positions. at once repressing similarities and highlighting distinctions. Any condition. Cyborg bodies and/or cyberbodies? The most prevalent of technology-related ”others” of contemporary SF are the cyborgs and cyberbodies. they are posited identical with reference to their opposition to the human body. it is revealed that the definition refers to 2 . we recognize them as living and feeling insofar as they remain in the sphere of the non-human. only with the assumption that human being has unique qualities in comparison to a machine. That is. According to Sherry Turkle (35). In contemporary fixation on the technologized body. Human body ===== Cyborg body Human body ===== Cyberbody What is neglected but requires to be articulated rather more attentively in this formulation is that the cyborg body and the cyberbody are not the same. which negates this “recognition through denial”. That is. If only we are to reconsider what the term cyborg stands for (“cybernetic organism”). we feel safe to accept machines as “living and thinking” partners. results in uncanny states. SF genre tries to examine this ambivalent position towards technology. separately. towards our growing anxieties about our own nature in an increasingly technological environment and a kind of evolution that may foretell the subject’s disappearance or termination. Consequently.oppositions between machine and human. These two figures are placed in opposition to the human body in the construction of the above-mentioned human/non-human duality. the position of the human body is secured with reference to the dualities of cyberbody-human body and cyborg body-human body.
and the other to Donna Haraway. it needs to confront a rival: its mirror image. But there. informatic bodies. conception of consciousness as a distinctive human activity needs to be rethought. the cyberbody. According to him. Two separate references from contemporary theory. mostly borne by 3 . can be cited. the cyborg body and the cyber body. 73-4).an intermediate position on a scale of biological vs. In cyberspace. it is now possible to rethink the distance between the three terms of this operation: the human body. which attempt to represent this mutation in the relation between mind and the body in different terms. it is depicted as a life form enhanced by additional capabilities. Thousands of memes. As well as the treatment of the body as bounded by the skin. Daniel Dennett (171-226) fills the gap by positing a model of consciousness that suggests thinking of humans as constitutionally cyborgs. The capacity of consciousness has often constituted a philosophical boundary between humans and non-humans (animals or machines) (Hakken. symbolic operations and other applications resting upon the concealment of this very same operation. Bio-body ================================ Info-body Human body Cyborg body Cyberbody Once the “cyborg body=cyber body” equation is problematized in this manner. we are predesigned/formatted by language. The cyborg dwells in an individualistic virtual realm that if pushed to the limit manifests itself as cyberspace. Going back to the original definition of the cyborg. Its prosthetic extensions are connected with informational pathways to the organic body. consciousness is a “virtual software” running on brain “hardware”. One of these belongs to Daniel Dennett. immobilizing it or even permanently discarding it. cyberbody takes over the cyborg body.
it can be said that both reduce the distance between the human and the non-human. Her political conception of cyborg acknowledges technology as holding a possibility for liberation within a new “posthuman” and “postgendered” era. tends towards the cyber end of the continuum. cyborg “does not seek unitary identity and so generate antagonistic dualities without end” (180). but both need not to be complete or irreplaceable. According to Haraway. extra lenses or monitors for enhancing our visual capacity or extra RAM to expand our memory) or software (fantasies. It appears precisely where the boundaries between human. and by doing so redefine our bodies and subjectivities in relation to cybernetics. but also by wordless images and other data structures. based on a computer analogy. Dennett’s model also makes it possible to envisage the postbiological idea of uploading or downloading consciousness to various mediums (to a terminal or a new technologized body). This model necessitates hardware and software components. As long as we maintain the main operational system. take up residence in a brain. but differ in emphasis. 4 . Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we pursue explanations regarding our bodies and tools.g. If the trajectories of these two approaches are compared. machine and animal is transgressed. desires or anxieties).language. Whereas Dennett’s model. Haraway’s account opens up a critical space to utilize the potential of the cyborg body. and the term has become nearly synonymous with her formulations. shaping its tendencies and thereby turning it into a mind. Haraway has extensively rethought the emergence and potential of the cyborg. we can add/remove hardware (e. opening up a space for the cyberbody.
But the virtualization of the 5 . self-absorbed transformers that many critics fear cyberspace will enable. two distinctive cases of cinematic representations of cyberspace can be employed to understand what they have to offer in accordance with these two trajectories. Not satisfied with real sex experience any longer. abused and exploited. which would produce the monadic. turns into predatory when Jobe changes his form into a phallus and invades the other’s body. Dressed in sensor-equipped suits and goggles. he brings his sex partner to the laboratory and connects her to the machine for a cybersex session. in the corporeal world. if not outright denied. Among the earliest depictions of cyberspace. The Lawnmower Man stands as a good example. and relations with others take on the form of object relations. The film tells the story of a brutally insulted. For Jobe. This is an identification process.Cyberbodies: The Lawnmower Man and The Matrix Returning to the strategy of analyzing SF imagery. the intensity of the rape and the termination of the female partner’s Gestalt result in permanent destruction of her mind. The poetic experience of liquid cyberbodies flying together and momentarily merging into one. That instance perfectly shows the fantasy nature of the cyberspace. While he enjoys his jouissance. Jobe is positioned in a spherical gadget in which his cyborg body looks both like a puppet and like crucified Jesus Christ. The program supplies him an intense information bombardment to develop his intelligence and abilities. he attains a novel interface to experience and act. mentally retarded gardener that becomes the subject of a compassionate scientist who works on a prototypical cyberspace project developed for military purposes. Jobe’s cyborg body gains superhuman powers as well. the existence of other subjectivities is of little significance. His Narcissistic identification comes to a point where he sees himself as the world and that he can contain all. gradually turning him into the ideal subject of our patriarchal Symbolic. Outside cyberspace.
grasping the Real of the Matrix. After having abandoned his corporeal body. tied with mechanic chords. His vulnerable cyborg body. enlightened Neo views the virtual reality as pure code. Matrix is yet a cyberpunk version of Plato’s Cave: a simulated world that has been protecting people to turn blind from the truth. nor taste. wakes into the corporeal world in a womblike pod. a prison that one can neither smell. In the final. Jobe uploads himself to the information network as a cyberbody of “pure mind”. via an offline working training program. Morpheus explains Neo that Matrix is the world that has been pulled over his eyes to blind him from the truth. In another popular SF film named The Matrix. because the body represents an unfortunate link to a material reality that "just is not enough anymore". It is the fantasy. cyberspace program acts as a womb/cocoon for his evolution. the protagonist receives a big surprise after taking the red pill. masters it. frees his mind from fear. realizing that what he has been witnessing was simulation generated by a computer construct called Matrix. the virtual symbolic order 6 . both the mother and the material. what is left behind is a mere dried out cyborg body. equips his cyberbody with weapons. nor touch: a prison for minds. It is "a computer generated dream world. where he extends his body by attaining the ability of telepresence only bound to the limits of the communication infrastructure. The mirror he touches liquefies and pours into his throat bringing him back to corporeal world. In Latin. In Jobe’s self-constructing project. The unbearable desert of the polluted and ruined real world is preferential instead of the prison. Neo acquires new skills in martial arts. or matter. built to keep human beings under control". disbelief and doubt to fight against the Matrix.body for the sake of realizing the fantasy is inevitable. the word for womb is matrix.
The result. Neo gets equipped with Eastern teachings (in their incorporated form into the symbolic) and a library full of weapons to destroy the virtual Big Other. kept alive in order to generate the energy for the Matrix (fromThe Matrix: The Truth of the Exaggerations). through which human subjectivity is governed (The Sublime Object of Ideology. self-identification. faced with its own impossibility. Towards the end of the film. via cyberspace.” and the impossibility of attaining a perfect state as such. as in Zizek’s re-working of Lacan’s concept of ideology. we observe the embodiment of the masculine fantasy about self-control. turns into the denigration of matter (e. self-knowledge and selfdetermination. The difference lays in that. No one would accept the program. According to Zizek. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this. whereas Jobe gets evolved with Western intelligence to be the virtual Big Other. But I believe that as a species. In both films. which fosters socially constituted fantasies. Where everyone would be happy. In both cases. human beings define their reality through misery and suffering.that both hide the world in ruins and structure reality. cyborg/material bodies are pacified for the sake of 7 . Some believed that we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. The perfect world would dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. the matrix) in order to justify the primacy of the cyber.g. the depictions of cyberspace in The Matrix and The Lawnmower Man share a belief in the transcendental fantasy. The aim of achieving perfection in material terms. is “a totality set on effacing the traces of its own impossibility”. 146). the artificial life form agent explains the idea behind the Matrix: “Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered. the urge to attain the abundance and plenitude of a “perfect human world.” (from the transcript of The Matrix) This speech reveals both the generative aim behind the construction of the Matrix. the strength of the film resides in the image of the millions of human beings leading a claustrophobic life in cradles. Entire crops were lost. the peak of your civilization. It was a disaster. Seen in this light.
“cyberscape”. escaping the body and sliding into an infinite. There is no doubt that cyberspace as it is depicted in both of these instances is a form of utopia/dystopia. the story metaphorically constructs a clash between two different forms of subjectivities. They move back in time in order to annihilate the person. and perfect other world. in the form of Jobe’s limp or Neo’s mechanically penetrated body. Thus. Thus the answer they provide to the question of “what do we want from cyberspace?” is limited to a reconstitution of the body/mind duality. a form of fantasy enactment. nor a comforting arrival to the womb. The dissolution of the body. the main story revolves around a fight for survival between humans and machines. Terminators are sent from a future in which human race is faced with the threat of extinction. the to-be-savior of the human race. The question then becomes “what of the bodies that are left behind?” Can the leftover cyborg. But cyberspatial portrayal in Matrix is neither heaven. and its replacement by its own technological simulation is posited as empowering. who will become a threat for their own existence in the future. alternate to each other: one being human.cyberbodies to accomplish the fantasy. It appears only as a reappraisal of the already existing symbolic model in virtual terms. offer a way out? Cyborg bodies: Terminator series In Terminator series of 1984 and 1991. The question to be raised at that point should be: but whose utopia is it? The cybertopias depicted in these two SF films seem to be those of the white male subject. Those who cherish the patriarchal fantasy see cyberspace as a new zone of hope for humanity which wants to be freed from the corporeal constrains. the other 8 . that is. transcendent. not exploiting enough the potentials of this alternative realm: “cyberspace” turning into cyber means of escape.
Although the emphasis shifts away from an incorporeal cyberbody.cyborg. T-100 is neither subject nor object. Until that moment. T-100 totally dresses off from the human skin by the end of the movie. Failing to push this ambiguity to its possible extremes. Terminator series posit a questioning of human subjectivity without loosing contact with corporeal grounds. In Terminator 2. T-100 dresses off once more. in the second episode it appears as the protagonist itself. bringing out his humane side. remaining as a purely mechanical skeleton). In the first episode. First of all. the similarities between the human and non-human bodies are repressed. This shift of positions from the antagonist to the protagonist on behalf of the cyborg body marks a significant transformation in the conception of the boundary that separates the human and the cyborg in historical terms. the plot 9 . neither purely human nor machine. thus. and distinctions highlighted (e.g. The ambivalence and the problems referred to in the first section of this paper can be said to replay in the unfolding of the plot. commissioned to provide for the protection and survival of the human race. just to reveal his technological inside to us. His cyborg subjectivity is challenged through human interaction. he is portrayed as non-other even to the extent of being presented as the father figure for the future-savior. In stark contrast to the cyberspace’s promise of a liquid body that will house our fantasies devoid of corporeal limitations. but this time partly. the potential of the cyborg body to reveal the disintegrated nature of the human subject is used to secure it even further. the series is not devoid of its own complications and problems. the tension and opposition between human/non-human categories resurfaces. the cyborg body (T-100) is posited as a threat towards the human protagonist. Whereas in the first episode. The horror here is that of a collapse between inside and outside.
She writes: "we are all chimeras. Its shiny metal liquid body can mimic any entity that would help to succeed in its desire. its body is perhaps the most horrific and the most desirable of all SF bodies up till now. not just a masculine fantasy of “natural” mastery and domination over nature. develops any tool necessary like an all-inclusive swissknife. The cyborg is no longer "a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality. T-1000 is a perfect posthuman metaphor for a fluid. in short. technology is so deeply implicated in human existence that it is a core aspect of our being. in its reposing of T-1000 as utterly “other”. theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism. The new multi-media and interactive spaces of 10 . Can it be counted as a cyborg? A new form of subjectivity? It is an entirely alien form without any reference to anthropomorphic cyborg anthology. Its body fits any condition. humans have long been cyborgic. and our responsibility to acknowledge it. flowing in time and space. T-1000 depicts a new conception of the body. We live within a growing human-computer interface. with no dualisms on mind: man. but at the same time produces its own other in the form of T-1000. This is where Haraway’s “cyborg politics” comes forth once more to open the idea of technological symbiosis as a dynamic exploration. T-1000 is a “perfect subject” with strictly defined boundaries between self and other. we are cyborgs" (150). Actually. It is SF genre’s failure to recognize this potential. “reconstructable” subjectivity. woman or floor. Although the depiction reminds infantile L'hommelette existence. embodiment of pure desire devoid of any concern for constructing a consistent whole. technology and “others”. Nevertheless." (150) but the lived experience of millions of people who spend most of their time working and playing in digital space.inevitably asks “it” to terminate itself before it becomes further humanized.
We don’t need to conceptualize it as a utopian/cybertopian entity understood in transcendental vision. The idea of a mind working separately from. cyborg body fights against them.digital arts constitute a novel territory for cyberspace. subjectivity and corporeality in its continuous state of becoming. but instead utilize it in order to understand our state of being in a technologized world as liquid subjects with fragmented identities. and even in opposition to the body is damaging. 11 . How can we fight the dualities in a medium resting on body-mind split? Whereas cyberbody replicates the dualities of Cartesian subjectivity. while at the same time denigrating matter. Instead of aiming at an impossible real. The problem with the cyberbody is that it reproduces limiting. not liberating. stereotypes. It opens up productive ways of thinking about gender. the category of the cyborg redraws our attention towards what already is imbedded with that which is material. Exploiting its potential without sticking to transcendental fantasies is possible.
Turkle. G. S. and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. D. "The Matrix: The Truth of the Exaggerations. The." Simians. 1991. London and New York: Routledge. S. F. Hakken. London:Little. New York: Routledge.html>. 1991. London: Verso. Terminator. Cyborgs@Cyberspace: An Ethnographer Looks to the Future. 1989." The Gendered Cyborg: A Reader.References Dennett. Consciousness Explained. Zizek. 12 . Brett Leonard.com 2 December 2002. Boston. Haraway. K. James Cameron. S. "Postfuturism. Terminator 2. New York and London: Routledge. 18 December 2002 <http://lacan. 1999. 1992. 108 mins. 2000. 136-147. Brown and Company. New York: Simon and Schuster. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Sobchack. D. Hovenden. Woodward. Eds.com/matrix. The. Zizek. L. Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. The. Kirkup. Daniel C. The Sublime Object of Ideology. 1984." Lacan. 107 mins. 149-181. 1999. 136 mins. Technology. Toronto. V. 137 mins. The Second Self : Computers and the Human Spirit. James Cameron. 1984. Filmography Lawnmower Man. 1991. Janes. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science. Matrix.
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